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Beyond the #selfie: Connecting teens and art through social media

Presented at the Museum Computer Network conference in Montreal, November 2013.

Tweeting, Tumbling, snapping photos--how can we turn typical teen behaviors in the museum into meaningful learning experiences? At the National Gallery of Art, thousands of middle and high school students visit each year. Most are not pre-registered, do not participate in formal educational programs such as tours, and are set loose on their own to explore the museum. To reach and engage this audience, the Gallery created a printed guide to the permanent collection (called #atNGA) that encourages looking carefully at works of art, making connections between art and life, exploring art as historical and cultural expression, and reflecting on the creative spirit. What makes this guide different is that each work of art is paired with a social media prompt such as: take and share a photo (via Instagram), craft a text response (via Twitter), or ponder a question with a friend. By explicitly inviting and helping to shape teens' social media interactions with the Gallery, we hope to turn what might otherwise be a frivolous encounter into a learning experience. This presentation will share the results of our evaluation research and discuss the broader challenges and opportunities of connecting with teens via social media.

Beyond the #selfie: Connecting teens and art through social media

  1. 1. Beyond the #selfie Connecting teens and art through social media Dana Allen-Greil National Gallery of Art @danamuses
  2. 2. How can we leverage this behavior for deeper interaction with the museum? Solution: Invite participation and help guide interactions with art
  3. 3. Each year thousands of teens visit the National Gallery of Art  Not pre-registered  Not on a school tour  Set loose on their own Image: OZinOH
  4. 4. An opportunity to acknowledge and welcome social behaviors  Taking photos  Checking in  Tweeting  Talking with friends
  5. 5. Approach: Start with something we already know how to do well Printed self-guides to the permanent collection Image: Carlos Oliviera Reis
  6. 6. 3 WAYS TO ENGAGE
  8. 8. Teens (13-18) Who are visiting the Gallery, particularly those visiting in un-guided groups
  9. 9. Young adults (18+) Who are visiting the Gallery and are interested in engaging via social media
  10. 10. Image: Carlos Oliviera Reis
  11. 11. Teachers, parents, chaperones of the primary audience (teens)
  13. 13. Teens… are mobile and social. Our guide… is designed to be easy to use with a smartphone and common social media apps. is also appropriate for those who want to just have a conversation with their group, rather than use technology.
  14. 14. Teens… share photos on Instagram (one of the most popular activities for teens using mobile devices). (80% of teens who use social networks post photos/videos.) Our guide… makes it clear that this activity is welcomed and encouraged behavior.
  15. 15. Teens… Our guide… visiting in un-guided groups sometimes need encouragement and some structure to help them focus on works of art. provides multiple hooks for looking at, thinking about and responding to art.
  16. 16. Visitors… are interested in viewing the Gallery’s “must-see” works of art. Our guide… highlights a small selection of key works in the permanent collection.
  17. 17. Lowering barriers We selected works of art that are more accessible to the target audience: they feature young people, tell a story, are figurative, and/or are by famous artists.
  18. 18. Asking instead of telling The guide probes readers to consider their own opinions, interpretations, and reflections on the works of art We avoided art historical language in favor of an informal tone encouraging personal reflection
  19. 19. Encouraging discussion with friends By prompting teens to share their thoughts and photos with friends on social networks, the guide encourages teens to consider how works of art are relevant to their lives.
  21. 21. Visitors are actively engaged with works of art  Careful looking  Making connections between art and life  Reflecting on the creative spirit  Having fun
  22. 22. Teens feel more comfortable looking at and expressing their thoughts about art
  23. 23. Teens are inspired to return to the Gallery or visit another art museum
  24. 24. Teens develop long-term relationships with the Gallery  Follow on Twitter  Subscribe for newsletter  Attend a program
  25. 25. EVALUATION
  26. 26. Evaluation Formative Survey Prototype testing and interviews with a group of teens on a school visit during content development Only 4 responses since July (19,000 print guides distributed since April). All over 30, none chaperones. Context To Come: Observations & Interviews Talked with information desk volunteers about when/who/why they distribute the guide Bring in target audience to discuss the format, content, distribution, and other ideas for improving the experience.
  27. 27. What about responses like this?
  28. 28. Results [19,000 printed guides distributed since April] Responses Total = 171 in 7 months Instagram = 139 Tweets = 63 (Note: some tweets included links to Instagram) Tweet breakdown 31 Instagram links  19  10 text only  1 Vine  1 yfrog photos  1 hashtag only 
  29. 29. Distribution 1. Information desks  Must 2. be handed out by volunteers Website  PDF download  Buried under Visit > Tours & Guides > Self-Guides 3. Email newsletters  Targeted to teens, educators
  30. 30. Hunches & Ideas  Not clear that this is a guide primarily for teens  Prompts need to be more compelling (and simpler in some cases)  Gallery needs to be actively responding and promoting on Instagram and Twitter  Prompts that are integrated into the experience (e.g., on the wall labels or on the app) would get more traction  Need to improve distribution and awareness  Optimize for discovery and use on a mobile device
  31. 31. YOUR IDEAS?
  32. 32. THANKS! Dana Allen-Greil e. t. @danamuses b. Photo Credits: